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Full text of "Journal of Two Expeditions to the West Coast of the Middle Island of New Zealand in the Year 1859"

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294 Kochfort's Journal of Two Expeditions to the 

XX. — Journal of Two Expeditions to the JVest Coast of the 
Middle Island of New Zealand in the Year 1859. By John 
Rochfort, Esq., of Nelson, Surveyor. 

Communicated by Sir W. C. Trevelyan, Bart., f.r.g.s., &c. 

First Expedition. 

In accordance with arrangements entered into with the Provincial 
Government of Nelson for the survey of the West Coast district of 
that province, I started in the month of February, 1859, and, accom- 
panied by three European assistants, proceeded in a small sailing- 
vessel to Port Cooper. Arrived there, my first object was to 
secure the services of Maories, to act as guides and assist in the 
operations of surveying, carrying provisions, &c. ; but I was not 
able to induce a single native to join me, owing to their objection 
to explore country not then purchased from their race by the 
Government, and also because they did not like to face the danger 
to be encountered in passing through the snow on the dividing 
ranges. I therefore determined to start on the journey, aided only 
by three assistants (or " hands," as they are termed in colonial 
phrase) that had accompanied me from Nelson. 

We proceeded first to Kaiapoi, and thence by a bridle-track to 
the stations of Mason and Taylor. This district is intersected 
with lakes, and in the middle of March we passed between 
Lake Taylor and Lake Katrine. Following along the margin 
of the latter (almost impassable through swamp), we had the 
difficult operation of ascending, with a pack-horse, some 500 feet 
of precipitous incline, in order to overcome an obstacle in our 
road ; and then we reached the margin of Lake Sumner, the 
course of which leads into the valley of the Upper Hurunui, a 
valley some 15 miles in length, and consisting of a wide shingle- 
bed, studded with numerous well-grassed islands and flats, and 
forming the base of a range which is clothed with a forest of black 
birch. As we ascended towards the saddle of the Hurunui, we 
found that the river-bed became very contracted and rough ; there 
were no further signs of grass, and travelling became almost im- 

S)0ssible. At last, however, by scrambling up the sides of a water- 
all, we reached the saddle, and found it to be covered with nene 
and the short rushes invariably discovered at the snow-line. 

Whilst in this part I explored a hill to the northward, and dis- 
covered the source of the Tutai-kuri, which is a branch of the 
Ahaura running into the Grey.* On this hill I experienced one of 

* The rivers Buller and Grey were explored some years back by Mr. Brunner, 
and an account was published in the 28th volume of this Journal. 

Mr. Rochfort promises the details of another survey, which he was about to 
undertake. — Ei>. 




Tki* ror At Journal of dit Royal fatorap hiral Sec? hy J.Xiuray. Jlbenwrle SfrT Lvnfan.WM, 



West Coast of New Zealand in the Year 1859. 295 

those atmospheric effects only seen to perfection at great altitudes, 
when, in a terrific storm, the clouds meet and rebound, the ceaseless 
peals of thunder become almost deafening, and the hail pelts down 
pitilessly on the exposed traveller. The hill was enveloped in a 
dense fog, which continued until daylight, when the rising of the 
sun presented a glorious contrast to the terrors of the night. 

While at this elevation we suffered most cruelly from the 
attacks of innumerable rats; but, strange to say, although our 
canvas tents, clothes, and flour-bags, and other articles were 
greedily devoured, the rats would not touch the flour. 

Crossing the saddle of the Hurunui, which is about a mile wide, 
we began the western river descent. For a short distance we 
travelled easily down the bed of the river, but we soon found it 
impracticable, owing to the precipitous falls over which the river 
cascades. We therefore crossed a spur on the north side, and 
going down a small creek we came to the river Taramakau, the 
course of which we followed for 3 miles through a gorge, scram- 
bling over the rocks and wading through the water with much 
difficulty, as we had to carry our supplies, which then weighed 
over 1200 lbs. Birds are very scarce in this part. 

Still following the course of the river, we found that about 14 
miles below the saddle the water is augmented to a great extent, 
by receiving the contents of another river from the south (called 
by the natives Otira), and rendering the Taramakau difficult if 
not dangerous to ford. Much fine timber exists in this part of 
the country, and covers extensive flats which are available for 
agriculture. 

While camped on this spot an accident occurred which greatly 
delayed my expedition and taxed our patience to the utmost, as 
we were then pushing on to unexplored and interesting land. 
One of my men accidentally shot himself in the arm, and it there- 
fore became necessary for us to retrace our steps with him, and 
secure for the patient that quiet and assistance not to be had in 
my own camp. Leaving our tent, &c, to the care of the elements, 
we wended our way over the inhospitable region of snow, moun- 
tains, floods, and cataracts, to Taylor's station, where we left the 
wounded man. Here we met with Mr. Mackay and his brother, 
just arrived from the Haikoras, and, on my undertaking to be 
their guide, they agreed to accompany me to my former camp. 

The weather now had changed, and we were detained by snow- 
storms for eight days at the Lake station ; and on recrossing the 
dividing range we had to contend with snow breast-high and a 
four days' flood in the Upper Hurunui, which, as we had to carry 
fresh supplies of provisions, made this portion of our journey most 
trying. We, however, found a severer task awaiting us at the 
spur (previously alluded to), where, owing to the great depth of 



296 Rochfort's Journal of Two Expeditions to the 

snow, we had to tax every nerve to liberate ourselves. So arduous 
was the labour, that we had to take turns in going first, and occa- 
sionally one would sink half-buried between the yielding masses of 
snow, and would have to be extricated by the rest ; at other times 
the leader, dislodging a large drift, would almost cover those in 
the rear. 

After thus travelling for eight days, a walk of two more brought 
us to the scene of the accident, where I found that my stores had 
become all mouldy, and my tent was split to ribbons. 

Here the Maories that had been engaged by the Messrs. Mackay 
came up, and proceeded on with those gentlemen towards the 
West Coast. 

After repairing my tent I recommenced surveying. The river 
from this point, and 9 miles below, is a wide shingle-bed, covering 
the entire valley, and being divided by channels into numerous 
islands, covered with broom, tutu, koromika, akiaki, and patches 
of grass. 

At the end of this the hills on the north side terminate suddenly, 
and form an opening of about 2 miles in width. Here much is to 
be observed. Looking from the Taramakau n.n.e., you see an 
isolated hill, called by the natives Kimonga, between which and 
the snowy ranges is a wide flat and an open pass to the Pohirua 
Lake, as far as the Ahaura River. The pass consists of open fern 
and flax, with patches of bush. Indeed, the hills may be said to 
end here, and that immense flat commences which claims the 
Buller as its northern boundary. 

The rocks on the sides of the Taramakau are composed of 
argillaceous slate on one side and quartz on the other, giving 
favourable indications of gold. 

Looking from the same place south-west by south, you see 
Mount Turiwhite, which appears to divide the valley of Tarama- 
kau : one pass running through to the Brunner or Kotukuwakaho, 
and the other carrying the water of the Taramakau to the ocean. 
The view from this point is beautiful in the extreme. 

According to my instructions, I now left the Taramakau, and, 
cutting a line three-quarters of a mile long through a belt of white 
pine-bush, emerged on an open plain, very stony, and covered 
with high fern and flax. From this plain were two passes : the 
north-east one running between the isolated hill Kimonga and the 
main range, over the Poherua Lake, and crossing the Ahaura and 
other rivers to the Buller. The view in this direction presents a 
level plain, unbroken by a single hill. To the north-west (the 
route I followed), through the Kotukuwakaho Pass, to within 3 
miles of the lake of that name, was all a stony fern flat. The 
margin of the lake is covered with white pine-bush, extending to 
the hills on either side ; through this bush I cut a line 3 miles in 



West Coast of New Zealand in the Fear 1859. 297 

length. On reaching the lake we discovered the sides to be so 
steep as to prevent travelling, and it became necessary to build a 
canoe to continue our course. This was accomplished, with a 
week's labour, by hollowing out a white pine-tree ; and in this 
frail bark we succeeded, after some fruitless attempts made in too 
rough weather, in reaching the opposite side of the lake. The 
roar of the ocean was quite audible from this place. 

The rocks at the north-east corner of the lake are granite, 
which joins the slate from the direction I travelled, and this is 
another favourable indication of gold. In looking across this 
lake you perceive a flat bush-country, the lower gorge of the Grey, 
or end of the Paparoha range ; and at the northern corner of this 
lake there is an open patch of fern and flax, and a river that 
connects this with the Poherua Lake. A small river at the 
south-west corner runs from the lake to the sea (and has been used 
by the natives as a track to Port Cooper) ; and at the north-west 
the end of the lake is formed by the Kotukuwakaho, which 
discharges itself into the Grey. The lake is 6 miles long, by 
5 wide. It encloses an interesting island, whereon stand the 
remains of an ancient pah, called Taka Taka. The waters of the 
lake have been subjected to such violent tempests that the large 
war-canoes formerly brought into it were often wrecked. I noticed 
growing on the shores of the lake a stunted tree, bearing very 
much the appearance of mahogany, and with a long, thin, glazed 
leaf. The birds found in this part of the country are paradise, 
grey and blue ducks, teal, the crested grebe, rail, white cranes, 
and sea-gulls, with an abundance of quail and woodhen on the 
plains. 

My survey of the Kotukuwakaho, or Arnould River, was 
accompanied with much difficulty and risk. 

The Arnould, at its source, is a wide river, taking the overflow 
of Lake Brunner, and for 2 miles, through a dense forest of pine 
and birch, has little current and no fall ; but when joined by two 
streams from the north, falls follow each other in rapid succession, 
the current increases with such velocity that it becomes a race, and 
the snags are found so plentiful, even in the deepest water, as to 
leave no available channel whatever. I had many familiar proofs of 
the danger of the navigation, and often was our canoe in imminent 
danger of being capsized, and I had to rig canvas top-sides to prevent 
the water from swamping her. During several weeks past we had 
been on short allowance, and to lose our little stock of flour would 
have been utter ruin. Heavy rain fell incessantly, making the 
canoe sink deeper ; the falls became more rapid and dangerous, 
so that it was a great task to steer her, and our only chance lay 
in keeping her head w T ith the current. Trying to do this, the 
canoe struck a snag, sheered off, passed down a fall with the 



298 Rochfokt's Journal of Two Expeditions to the 

utmost rapidity, then turning a sharp elbow in the river, we dis- 
covered to our dismay a tree projecting 50 feet across the river 
and about 2 feet above the water. The crisis was imminent, as 
we were running at least 10 knots an hour ; but I ordered the 
men to lie down, and we luckily shot under this barrier without 
accident, although the dog had nearly lost his head from not 
understanding the word of command. We now sailed on merrily, 
but in another quarter of a mile danger again threatened us in the 
shape of a dead block of snags which impeded the river. Our 
only chance was to carry on all sail, trusting to the current to 
drag us across; but our calculations were erroneous, and the 
canoe, having run one-third of her length out of the water, stuck 
fast. We were therefore obliged to abandon our gallant craft ; 
and so, securing the instruments, papers, and the remaining small 
stock of flour, we commenced our dreary march in the midst of a 
drenching rain, which continued through the day and night, and 
completely soaked us. We suffered other inconveniences besides 
those of wet and cold, for our larder boasted no greater delicacy 
than thin paste made of a tablespoonful of flour boiled in a quart 
of water. This we had twice a day while the flour lasted. In our 
exhausted condition we were enabled to accomplish but a short 
distance each day, and our small stock of flour soon vanished. 
One day we would have nothing to eat ; another day only a small 
robin between three of us and the dog ; and a chance pigeon or 
two on another day ; until at length we reached the Maori pah. 
Here every civility and kindness awaited us; and though only 
potatoes were procurable, they were sufficient not merely to support 
life, but to stimulate appetites which for six long months had 
submitted to worse than English pauper's fare. 

While with the Maories, I learned of the existence of the Ngati- 
mamoi tribe, or wild men of the bush. About two years previously 
a woman of this tribe had been captured by the Maories, but she 
soon afterwards escaped, and so little information was obtained 
from her. 

I will now briefly enumerate a few of the advantages possessed 
by this West Coast district, which I have taken the liberty of 
naming Westmoreland. 

The River Grey — having a considerable depth of water over 
its bar at low tide, 9 feet rise of tide, and deep water for several 
miles up the river — runs through the most extensive district of 
land in the province of Nelson available for agriculture. At the 
entrance of the river are two deep-water lagoons, conveniently 
situated, sheltered from all winds, and offering secure anchorage 
in the case of freshes, which are heavy during the rains. There is 
land admirably adapted for a town of considerable importance, 
and having at its other extremity the River Buller, which is of 



West Coast of New Zealand in the Year 1859. 299 

much greater capacity than the Grey, possesses a finer harbour, 
and is free from the heavy swell which must always affect an 
exposed entrance. There is also, under Cape Foulwind, a sheltered 
anchorage from southerly winds, formed by a reef of rocks stretching 
out parallel to the coast. Seals, whales, and such other sources of 
wealth, abound in the vicinity. 

The climate is extremely salubrious, and is, in my opinion, 
equal to that of Nelson. There is a good seam of coal visible. 
Potera logs of stupendous size strew the beach for miles, and vast 
tracts of red and white pine, totara, rata, and other timber but 
await the woodman's axe. Eels of great size abound in all the 
rivers, and birds of the parrot and apteryx kind are found in 
various parts of the country. A riwi (one of the latter genus, 
about the size of a turkey, and having spurs on his feet) will, 
when attacked by a dog, defend himself so well as frequently to 
come off victorious. 

But the great desideratum is the discovery of a practicable line 
for the construction of a north road by which Nelson could be 
readily reached overland ; and, from the opportunities I had of 
judging, I believe this will yet be found. The country will then 
be speedily opened up for settlement. 

After recruiting our exhausted strength we left the hospitable 
Maories, and, travelling along the coast, we reached our homes 
about the end of July. 

Second Expedition. 

On this occasion I proceeded to the West Coast by sea, and 
towards the end of August, 1859, I left Nelson in the cutter 
Supply, and reached the mouth of the river Buller after a pro- 
tracted passage of fourteen days. 

My original intention was to land part of my stores at the 
Buller and part at the Grey ; but as it was very changeable weather, 
I deemed it prudent to land them all at the Buller. My intention 
now was to survey up the Buller, and carry the whole of my stores 
by canoe to a considerable distance up the Inongahua (a tributary 
of the Buller, capable of canoe-navigation) to where a low birch- 
range, about 3 miles across, divides it from the Mawhera-iti, a 
tributary of the Grey, whence I should be in a position to finish 
the survey of the Grey, besides having the benefit of a canoe to 
carry my stores nearly all the way. But I could not commence 
my survey until the return of a messenger whom I had sent to the 
Grey for extra hands, and he did not make his appearance for six 
weeks. This interval I employed in surveying the coast in the 
neighbourhood of the Buller. 

I found the coast to the north of the river, for about 10 miles, to 
be a flat alluvium, deposited at successive periods by the river, 



300 Kochfokt's Journal of Two Expeditions to tJie 

and extending to the foot of the hills, which are distant about 2 
or 3 miles. These hills are composed of quartz and felspar (in 
some places containing mica), approaching to a coarse granite ; 
and at the summit of the highest which I ascended (Papahaua, 
2400 feet) several strata of fine slate crop out. Owing to the fog 
which enveloped the top of the hill, I could get no view inland, 
even after waiting for two days : and this fog will, I imagine, add 
greatly to the difficulties of a trigonometrical or topographical 
survey of the country. Towards the coast this flat is bounded by a 
belt of bush and scrub three-quarters of a mile wide ; the remainder 
is open plain, divided by strips of bush-land. The streams which 
intersect the flat abound in eels, and I observed a seam of coal on 
the banks of the Waimangaraho. I noticed also that there are 
some very extensive valleys between the flat and West Wanganui, 
and it appears quite probable that through some of these valleys a 
bridle-track to Nelson might be obtained. 

To the south of the Buller the coast is characterised by flat 
bush for about 5 miles, when the land rises into a low table of 
excellent soil, extending for 12 miles down the coast. Situated 
about a mile down the table is Cape Foulwind, the perpendicular 
cliffs of which, about 60 feet in height, consist of 40 feet of a slate- 
coloured sandstone layer of large boulders and 10 feet of gravel 
and soil. At the mouth of the Okari (one of the small rivers 
which intersect the table- land) I found large quantities of pumice- 
stone, which probably either came down the river or floated from 
Wanganui or Taranaki. In the rear of this terrace there is 
another plain, in some places 2 or 3 miles wide, and reaching from 
half a mile below the Buller to 6 or 7 miles down the coast. This 
plain has, at no distant period, been covered with a forest of 
Manuka, as the numerous stumps and dead trees abundantly testify. 
A series of similar plains, though of a smaller size, reach for about 
20 miles down the coast, intersected by streams, in two of which 
— the Waitakeri and the Waitohi — I discovered seams of coal. 

The long-expected natives having at last arrived from the 
Grey, I immediately started to survey up the river Buller. An 
extract from my journal will perhaps best describe this portion of 
my work : — 

November 4dh. — Surveying up the river, which is about a quarter 
of a mile wide, with fine level bush, interspersed with scrub on 
either side. 

The south bank of the Buller offers advantages of no ordinary 
character for the formation of a town, being an accumulation of 
small islands and peninsulas, divided by deep-water channels 
available for navigation, forming a perfect Venice. 

bth. — Entered the first gorge, about 4 miles from the river's 
mouth, which is narrow, deep, and singularly free from rapids; 



West Coast of New Zealand in the Year 1859. 301 

the hills, clothed with small birch, rise at an angle of 80° from the 
horizon, and close abruptly on the water's edge. 

1th. — Still a gorge, with hills in many places precipitously over- 
hanging the river. Had to ascend many rapids during this day's 
work. The geological features are pieces of mica-slate and quartz, 
cemented together into a conglomerate of brown, green, and 
reddish colours. 

8th. — Still working through the gorge, the slope of the hills 
getting more easy. Whilst chaining, I was surprised and no less 
gratified by one of the hands (F. Millington) announcing the dis- 
covery of gold ; an event as unexpected as propitious, and one 
which must have a powerful influence on the future prospects of 
this long-neglected West land. The royal mineral was lying on 
the edge of the river, glistening in the sun, and in such quantity 
as induced rather a mutinous spirit ; my hands having a greater 
preference for the golden prospects before them, than the sterner 
duties of surveying. 

9th. — Started again. Country greatly improved; flats occur- 
ring at intervals, growing white-pine. Found gold again, and 
collected about 3 dwts. on the north side, lying on the surface. 

10th. — River more open ; slate still the prevailing characteristic 
of the district, and broken birch hills above. 

Uth. — Good pine-flats on each side of the river ; the hills 
sandstone (similar to that used for grindstones) overlying slate, 
with the exception of one part, where a patch of gneiss occurs. I 
here had a view of a high range bearing southerly, and situated on 
the south side of the river, bare on the top, and apparently un- 
broken in outline. The river here abounds in very large eels, 
which are easily caught in the daytime below the rapids, where, 
under the shelter of a rock or snag, they await the arrival of the 
inonga or whitebait, myriads of which are this month in progress 
up the river, the rapids affording a partial barrier to their upward 
progress. 

12th. — One small river flowing into the Buller from the north- 
westward, and two a little farther on from the south-eastward ; 
the first having a large valley of bush with patches of fern, the two 
latter apparently joining at the back and forming one large wooded 
valley, running to the southward along the side of the range first 
seen yesterday. Opposite to this river, on the north side, high up 
on the hill, at a slip, I found a large fossil shell. 

lAth. — Thus far up the river is very fair navigation for a canoe. 
We had, however, to pass through a very bad granite gorge, with 
perpendicular rocks and cliffs on either side, surmounted by broken 
birch-hills. 

15^. — Many bad falls occur in this day's work. Towards 
middle of day arrived at a large table-land on the north-west side 



302 Bochfokt's Journal of Two Expeditions to the 

of the river, consisting of a good flat covered with bush. A con- 
spicuous cliff, abutting on the river-bank, displayed 30 feet of clay- 
slate, and 10 feet composed of boulders, gravel, and soil above. 

16th. — Delayed by heavy rain all day. 

17th. — Entered another gorge. Strata, fine hard red granite. 
Midday, arrived at a rapid with a fall of 9 feet in one chain, which 
caused such a sea that the canoe would have been swamped had 
we attempted to haul her up it : added to this, the ground at the 
side was precipitous, and we therefore found it necessary to build 
a scaffolding to haul the canoe over, which caused a delay of five 
hours. Here the eels and inonga literally swarmed. One would 
think this fall would be an effectual barrier to the latter, but they 
had the ingenuity to climb the perpendicular faces of rocks, which 
were literally black with them as they scrambled over the top and 
dropped into the eddy above ; so numerous were they, that one 
might take a hat and brush it full with the hand. 

18th. — Occasional flats ; slate strata still visible ; found gold 
again on the south side of the river. 

19th. — Very hard red granite gorge. The river in most places 
contracted to 50 links, and of enormous depth. I ascertained the 
fresh to rise upwards of 60 feet in this gorge. 

21st and 22nd. — River of similar character. 

23rd. — The same rough description as previously, the river being 
one continuous rapid ; in many places so deep that we could 
neither pole the canoe on the bottom, nor scale the cliffs to haul 
her up with a rope, but were obliged to push her up from the pro- 
jections and little cracks in the cliffs, and many times were carried 
round and had to work our way up again. Having proceeded a 
little farther, we got on shore on the granite rock, and found gold 
lying in the dips and cracks, carried there by the fresh. 

2Mh. — This morning arrived at a bad fall, where we had to 
construct another scaffold and haul the canoe over. My guide 
here acknowledged that he could not recognise the river at all, 
and said he thought we were past Inongahua ; but from not having 
seen a flat similar to what Oweka was described to me, I did not 
like to return. Towards the afternoon the gorge widened out to 3 
or 4 chains again, and occasional flats occurred, displaying a slate 
country. We now appeared to have got clear of the gorges, but 
soon came to a very bad fall, up which it was necessary to haul 
the canoe ; the ground at the side was almost impassable rock, but 
we carried some of the flour out to lighten her, and proceeded to 
haul her up, when in the strength of the rapid a sudden bend in 
the stream carried her head outwards, and the force of the current 
took her nearly across the river, burying her head beneath the 
water and dragging the rope away from us, as, from the narrow 
ledge on which we had to stand, we could not properly exert our 



West Coast of New Zealand in the Year 1859. 303 

strength. Thus all the strain came on the back rope, which was 
also torn away, and the canoe swept down the stream with un- 
checked speed. We now gave chase, with the intention of swim- 
ming off to her ; but, from the precipitous character of the banks, 
she was swept away fully six miles to our one, and was soon out of 
sight. Evening had now set in, and darkness quickly closed on 
us, which, together with the loss of all the instruments, cooking- 
utensils, axes, &c., made our camp most miserable, several of us 
being without blankets and tents, and our only consolation being 
that we had plenty of flour on shore. I now determined on re- 
turning next day by the side of the river, with the hopes of 
perhaps recovering the instruments. After three days' toilsome 
journeying, we discovered portions of the canoe, broken across the 
grain into several pieces ; as also a tomahawk, which had by some 
chance got jammed into one of the pieces of the canoe, testifying 
to the tremendous force of the rapids through which she had 
passed. 



XXL — On the Highland Region adjacent to the Trans-Indus 
Frontier of British India. By Major James Walker, of the 
Bombay Engineers, &c. 

Between the crest of the Soolimani range and the well-known 
routes from Upper Sind to Kandahar, Ghuzni, and Kabul, there 
lies a tract of hill country extending over 5 degrees of latitude and 
2 degrees of longitude, of which little is known up to the present 
date. Chiefly inhabited by tribes of fanatic Mahomedans, whose 
hands are against every man, and every man's hands against them, 
these hills are peculiarly difficult of exploration. Though they 
have been crossed at one or two points by Europeans in disguise, 
they have only once been avowedly entered by British officers, on 
the occasion of the memorable mission of the brothers Lumsden in 
1857-58 from Peshawur to Kandahar, through the valley of the 
Koorum, which lies on the southern skirts of the Safed Koh 
mountains, where it abuts at right angles against the Soolimani 
range. 

Like the Scottish Highlanders of old, the inhabitants of these 
hills prefer to subsist on the wealth of their lowland neighbours 
rather than on their own exertions. Occasionally their raids are 
directed against British subjects, when it becomes necessary to 
despatch a force against them to exact retribution for past offences 
and security for future good conduct. On these occasions 
opportunities are presented for acquiring some knowledge of the 
geography of countries which are otherwise sealed to Europeans. 

During the progress of the operations of the trigonometrical